New York State to Divest Pension Fund from Fossil Fuels

Tom DiNapoli, Comptroller of the State of New York, who has sole charge of the $226 billion Common Retirement Fund, announced today a four-year plan to analyze all of the fund’s fossil fuel holdings and divest from those that have no real transition plans to get out of fossil fuel production or that are not aligned to the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. We congratulate Tom DiNapoli for recognizing the urgency of the climate crisis and leading the way to a society that will be safer and more just for all.

New York State is not alone. It will join 1,300 institutions that have already committed to divest from fossil fuels, representing a total of $14.48 trillion assets under management. What makes NY State’s announcement so significant is that it’s the largest pension fund in the country (so far) to understand the urgent need to transition to a clean energy future and to take the appropriate action. DiNapoli has also pledged to decarbonize the entire pension fund’s portfolio by 2040, with interim targets: 10 years ahead of any other pension fund in the country.

The window of opportunity to mitigate the climate crisis is rapidly closing. NY State’s initiatives will help secure their pension fund and help protect the natural world. It’s a win-win situation. Most importantly NY State comptroller Tom DiNapoli has listened to the voices of millions of people, the majority of whom are young people who are justifiably angry and fearful about their future. 

We of FFCA now hope that our state pension funds CalPERS and CalSTRS will take note of New York’s bold initiatives to remove climate risk, and divest their billions from the fossil fuel industry. As too many of us are painfully aware, over the last four years in California, raging wildfires have traumatized millions of people and burned vast areas of the state. Since 2017,  wildfires have cost our state hundreds of billions of dollars. Continuing to invest billions from retirement funds in the very industry that is causing such devastation is counterproductive, short-sighted, and at odds with the pension funds’ mission of ensuring a safe and healthy future.. 

For the past seven years, thousands of California state employees, including teachers, have signed FFCA’s petition calling on the state’s pension funds to divest their billions from the fossil fuel industry. Teachers and state employees have made public comments at both CalPERS and CalSTRS over the years, For the last two years, students have spoken at CalSTRS Investment Committee meetings, and in January marched in protest from the state capitol to CalSTRS headquarters, where they staged a “die-in.” Like NY State, we believe that continued investments in this dying industry threaten our pensions as well as the planet. 

Hopefully, CalPERS and CalSTRS Investment Committee members will take note of the leadership of NY State and call on their staff to divest from fossil fuels. As state officials, investment committee members have taken an oath of office to uphold the CA Constitution. As state agencies, CalPERS and CalSTRS are obligated under the constitution to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of its People. Allowing these pension funds to continue investing in fossil fuels could be seen as a dereliction of the board members’ duty as state officials. 

Today we are facing the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced–the challenge to mitigate the climate crisis. CalPERS and CalSTRS have a great opportunity to do right by the people of California, especially the young people whose prospects for a healthy future are dependent on the decisions that Investment Committee members make today. State employees, teachers, and students deserve a healthy future on a livable planet. Tell CalPERS and CalSTRS to stop funding destruction–divest from fossil fuels.

Take action and demand that CalSTRS and CalPERS follow in the NY State Common Retirement Fund’s footsteps